Free spirits and imaginative individualists have long reveled in the desert’s open spaces and minds. The qualities that draw artists also beckon those who appreciate their efforts. This combination of talent and taste sustains a thriving community of art galleries and a world-class museum.
As you explore the desert’s natural beauty, allow time to see artful treasures at Palm Springs Art Museum. Exhibitions continuing through Dec. 31 include “Blast from the Past: 60s and 70s Geometric Abstractions,” a selection from the museum’s permanent collection featuring 100 paintings, sculptures, and prints from the 1960s and 1970s, representing a variety of ideas in Op Art, kinetic art, Minimalism, Hard Edge, and Color Field. Don’t miss the contemporary glass exhibition and “Contemporary Works from the Permanent Collection,” featuring pieces by Louise Bourgeois, Donald Judd, Anish Kapoor, Morris Louis, Max Neumann, Mimmo Paladino, Neo Rauch, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Andrea Zittel.
Opening Dec. 17, “Night and Day: The Paintings of Lockwood de Forest” features oil paintings ranging in date from 1874 to 1918 — including 20 daylight Palm Springs-area desert paintings — and continues through April 8, 2012. This will be the first museum venue for the traveling exhibition of the artist’s nocturne paintings and coincides with the publication of a monograph titled “Collecting Moonlight: the Night Paintings of Lockwood de Forest.”
The most anticipated exhibition of the season is surely “Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982.” As part of the Getty Foundation’s “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980” initiative, “Backyard Oasis” (Jan. 21-May 27, 2012) examines water-based environs in the arid landscape — an integral part of the region’s identity and a microcosm of the hopes and disillusionments of the country’s post-World War II ethos. “As a private setting, the backyard pool became a stage for subculture rituals and clandestine desires,” curator Daniell Cornell says. “As a medium, photography became the primary vehicle for embodying the polar emotions of consumer optimism and Cold War fears. Crossing the boundaries of popular and high culture, commercial merchandising, journalistic reporting, and vernacular memorabilia, photography conveyed the developing ideologies of the period.”
The museum ends the season with the site-specific “Michael Petry: The Touch of the Oracle” (March 17-July 29, 2012).
In addition to the museum, the Palm Springs area boasts more than 40 art galleries of all stripes and styles. From the Uptown Design District and Backstreet Art District in north and south Palm Springs, respectively, to El Paseo (including Coda Gallery, voted most popular in 2010 by Palm Springs Life readers) and The Art Place in Palm Desert — and points in between — galleries exhibit everything from early California Impressionism to Modern masters to Southwest to cutting-edge contemporary art.